How to Apply Filters in Photoshop Elements - dummies

How to Apply Filters in Photoshop Elements

By Barbara Obermeier, Ted Padova

Filters have been around since the early days of digital imaging, when Photoshop was just a little bitty program. Filters, also dubbed plug-ins because they can be installed or removed independently, change the look of your image in a variety of ways.


You can’t apply filters to images that are in Bitmap or Indexed Color mode. And some filters don’t work on images in Grayscale mode.

Applying filters in Elements

You can apply a filter in three ways:

  • The Filter menu: In either Expert or Quick mode, from the Filter menu, choose your desired filter category and then select a specific filter.

  • The Effects panel: In Expert mode, open the panel by choosing Window→ Effects or by clicking the Effects icon in the bottom right of the workspace. Click the Filters tab at the top of the panel. Choose your filter category from the drop-down list directly under the Filters tab. Double-click the thumbnail of your desired filter or drag the filter onto your image window.

  • The Filter Gallery: In either Expert or Quick mode, choose Filter→Filter Gallery to apply one or more filters in a flexible editing environment.

When you’re using the Filter Gallery, make a backup copy of your image (or at least create a duplicate layer) before you apply filters. Filters change the pixels of an image permanently, and when you exit the Filter Gallery, the filters you apply can’t be removed, except for using the Undo command or History panel. But when those options are exhausted, you’re stuck with the image as is.

Selectively applying a filter in Elements

You don’t necessarily have to apply filters to your entire image. You can apply filters to individual layers or even to selections. You can often get better effects when you apply a filter just to a portion of an image or layer.

For example, you can blur a distracting background so that the person in your image gets due attention. Or, as shown, you can apply an Ocean Ripple or Wave filter to the ocean, leaving your surfer unfiltered to avoid that “overly Photoshopped” effect.

[Credit: ©]
Credit: ©

Exercising a little restraint in applying filters usually produces a more attractive image.